Moms Columns & Blogs

Closeness through crafting

Written by Richard Rende, Ph.D., for Elmer's

It is no secret that parents are some of the busiest people on earth. It may seem an impossible task to take a few moments to connect with your kids through activities like arts and crafts, which ultimately create long-lasting memories.

Recently, I teamed up with Elmer’s to further explore the impact creative time with your child could have on his or her long-term success. In this

new research

, we spoke with 50 experts in the fields of child development and pediatrics, as well as nearly 300 moms across the country. Ninety percent of moms surveyed wished they had more time to engage in arts and crafts with their children.

The Benefits.

This new research speaks to a deeper understanding of the impact on social, cognitive, and emotional development. Without this creative time, new data suggests that children could be missing important benefits that are directly related to preparing them for school and providing them with the tools needed for long-term success in subjects like math, reading and writing, including:

- Visual processing skills, such as pattern recognition, detecting of sequences and spatial rotation. Other content areas, like math and reading, share these exact skills.

- The development of muscles in the hands and fingers, improving fine motor skills that are essential for school success in the earliest formal years.

- Executive functioning, a critical skill in guiding your child’s planned behavior, which improves focus and working memory skills.

Four Ways to Get the Most Out of Crafting with Kids.

With little time available, it’s important that they make the most out of the time they have to be creative as a family. Eliminate the stress of the barriers that keep us from engaging with kids, including the number of hours in the day, and make it easier for kids to get creative on a more regular basis.

Eliminate the pressures that make crafting hard to do.

Research suggested there was a growing need for quick and easy project ideas for parents that will engage kids, even if just for 20 minutes here and there. Access crafts, like these from Elmer’s, that don’t take too much time, but provide all the benefits of crafting. Choose crafts that don’t require a lot of preparation. Use items for your crafts that you already have around the house – like toilet paper rolls or cotton balls – to eliminate time needed to go to the store and purchase supplies.

Let your kids take the lead.

Creativity is promoted when kids take the lead. It’s important that kids not only lead with their brains, but also their hands. Crafting is one of the best ways to encourage fine motor development, and the benefits that kids will receive from doing the crafting activities independently are critical for academic readiness. Using tools, such as thesetriangular-shaped glue sticks and pens from Elmer's with easy-to-remove lids easy-to-remove lids also help kids develop fine motor skills and encourages independence during crafting. The creative spark is lit when kids try to figure out how to make things work on their own.

Praise your kids’ effort.

It’s clear from this research that praising kids for their effort, not the quality of the final product, is predictive of their future mindsets that underlie success in domains such as academics, sports and arts. Crafting is a perfect platform for encouraging and reinforcing effort rather than focusing on outcome. Displaying the product will help your child feel positive about the experience you’ve had together – especially if later on, you talk about the memories the display evokes.

Create happy memories.

Don’t worry about the final product. It’s the process that matters. In fact, 95 percent of moms surveyed agreed that perhaps one of the most important benefits children and parents both reap from arts and crafts time is that, years from now, it won’t matter what was created, just that it was created together. Many of the moms we surveyed still remember the crafts they did at home with their families when they were kids.

Smiles, laughs and some silliness keep kids engaged. And, this will help them get the cognitive benefits from crafting while getting something equally important – bonding time with parents. Kids will form lasting memories that will stay with them for years to come.

Richard Rende, Ph.D., is a developmental psychologist, researcher, educator and author. His research portfolio includes scientific projects that focus on the link between parenting practices, family interaction and emotional and behavioral development. Rende has authored more than 100 academic publications and presentations and serves on the editorial board of four academic journals.